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Fred M. Wilcox
At the turn of the century, Duke and Chester, two vaudeville performers, go to Alaska to make their fortune. On the ship to Skagway, they find a map to a secret gold mine, which had been stolen by McGurk and Sperry, a couple of thugs. They disguise themselves as McGurk and Sperry to get off the ship. Meanwhile, Sal Van Hoyden is in Alaska to try and recover the map; it had been her father's. She falls in with Ace Larson, who wants to steal the gold mine for himself. Duke and Chester, McGurk and Sperry, Ace and his henchmen, and Sal, chase each other all over the countryside, trying to get the map. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The big hit of the Johnny Burke-Jimmy Van Heusen score was the comically saucy "Personality." Put over in the film by worldly wise Dorothy Lamour, the tune was transformed by Decca Records into easy jazz, courtesy of Bing Crosby and Eddie Condon's Orchestra featuring the cornet of Wild Bill Davidson. This interpretation showed up on two Decca releases: a 78 which rose to number nine on the "Billboard" singles listing, and as part of the boxed album of selections from the movie. Capitol's waxing by singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers captured first place on the "Billboard" singles chart during the week of March 9, 1946. See more »
Road to Utopia was one of several films made during World War II and shown to GIs before reaching the civilian public. Saratoga Trunk and The Two Mrs. Carrolls are two other examples. We have some evidence for this statement. First and foremost Robert Benchley died a year before
the film had it's premier at the New York Paramount on February 27, 1946. Benchley, noted humorist and sometime film actor, provided some off and on-screen narration for the Crosby and Hope monkeyshines. He was reputed to be a big fan of both and I think he just wanted in on the fun.
Also, Crosby recorded most of the songs for Road to Utopia on July 17, July, 19 and December 8, 1944 at Decca studios. The song Personality wasn't recorded by him until January 16, 1946, however in the film, Dorothy Lamour sang it.
It was worth the wait for the civilian public. By now the boys had the surreal nonsense down pat. Dorothy Lamour plays Skagway Sal who's father is murdered in the first minutes of the movie by killers Sperry and McGurk. Dotty beats it up to Alaska to look up Douglass Dumbrille, her dad's best friend for assistance. As Douglass Dumbrille invariably does in these films, he's looking for the goldmine her father left for himself.
The killers take the next boat with the map that they stole from Dad in hand. But they don't reckon with the sharpie and the schnook who have stowed away on the boat to Alaska. Crosby and Hope steal the map and the killer's identity.
The plot I've described so far could be a melodrama, but not in any film with the title beginning "Road to......" Between talking bears, talking fish, and a cameo appearance by Santa Claus the laughs come fast and furious.
Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke wrote the songs for this surreal madcap and gave Dotty two songs, Would You and the aforementioned Personality. Crosby got his ballad, Welcome to My Dream, and a philosophical song, It's Anybody's Spring. The last one he sang on board on a ship talent contest with Hope accompanying him on the accordion. They lost to an organ grinder and a monkey which prompted Hope to comment on the next road trip he was bringing Sinatra.
And Crosby and Hope sang Goodtime Charlie which didn't make it to vinyl and Put It There Pal probably the best known of the duets they sang together in the Road pictures. Lots of dated references in the lyrics there to Crosby's horses and their respective radio sponsors. But today's audiences would still enjoy it.
One interesting fact was that the Catholic Legion of Decency a very powerful group in those days made objections to suggestive lyrics in Personality. Hard to believe in this day and age, but as another songwriter a generation later put it, "the times, they are a changin'."
Road picture references are sometimes dated, but the laughs are eternal.
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